An online petition calling for the immediate resignation of World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus over his handling of the Coronacrisis has reached more than 1 million signatures.
By Arthur Blok
The petition states that the WHO chief is “unfit” for his role as head of the organization and should forego his status immediately. Part of it is also related to Ghebreyesus’s underestimating the coronavirus. “We strongly think Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is not fit for his role as WHO Director General. We call for [his] Immediate Resignation,” the petition reads.
A failing WHO
Since 2017, the WHO has been managed by Ghebreyesus, a former Ethiopian minister. While campaigning to win the WHO post, Ghebreyesus was accused by health professionals around the world of covering up cholera epidemics in both Ethiopia and Sudan in order to avoid embarrassing the two African regimes.
His later decision to appoint – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, with a known record of human rights abuses, as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador, was received with widespread condemnation. It was labelled as a ‘campaign return favor’. He was later forced to reverse the decision.
The WHO chief has been vehemently attacked by Donald Trump earlier this month. The American President has gone as far as calling for Ghebreyesus’ resignation and threatening to cut funding to the WHO. Trump, along with his key Republican supporters and sympathetic media outlets, has recently escalated a months-long campaign accusing the WHO of being biased towards China, and has demanded a congressional investigation.
When cases of a mysterious viral pneumonia first appeared in Wuhan last year, Chinese health officials silenced whistle-blowers and repeatedly played down the severity of the outbreak. At that time, the WHO instantly endorsed China’s claims saying, for example, emphasizing that human-to-human transmission had not been proven and that it was not necessary to halt flights.
After meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping in late January, Ghebreyesus complimented the Chinese authorities for the way they dealt with the crisis and again downplayed – the risks of the virus spreading; his words were that the risks were “‘minimal and slow”. Ghebreyesus did not set foot in the city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, nor did the WHO Experts mission.
Inexplicably, the mission to China was only authorized as late as mid-February. It published a very vague report about the situation on the ground: the experts investigated the virus in less than two weeks, only spending two days in Wuhan and were not allowed to investigate freely.
Call for resignation and investigation
The petition alleged that instead of investigating and independently verifying the number of deaths and those infected within the Chinese provinces, Ghebreyesus simply relied on the word of the Chinese government endangering global health.
“A lot of us are really disappointed, we believe WHO is supposed to be politically neutral. Without any investigation Ghebreyesus solely believed the death and infected numbers that the Chinese government provided,” the petition further stated.
The petition, posted to Change.org and translated into multiple languages including French, Spanish, German and Arabic, added that the Tedros is “unfit” for his role as head of the organization and should forego his status immediately.
Last week Australia joined the United States in pushing for an international investigation into the origins and spread of the novel coronavirus, focusing on the behavior of China and the WHO as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration might make permanent its cut-off of U.S. funding for the WHO.
Pompeo said he would not rule out a U.S. demand that Ghebreyesus be replaced. President Donald Trump suspended earlier this month all U.S. contributions to the organization, after accusing it of being “China-centric” and of withholding information unfavorable to Beijing after the virus originated there late last year.